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Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año pushed for the placing of the entire country under Alert Level 1 to expedite economic recovery amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Yes, ‘yun ang ating adhikain d’yan. Dapat buong Pilipinas under Alert Level 1 para talagang halos ang ating restriction na lang ay minimum public health standards at ang iba’t ibang bayan ay umunlad at mag-take off na (Yes, that is what I am striving for. The whole country should be under Alert Level 1 so that almost all of our restrictions are limited only to the minimum public health standards and various localities will progress and take off),’’ Año said in a radio interview on Monday.

He also noted that the government has made adjustments to the requirements to place an area under Alert Level 1 like the required vaccination rate of the A2 (senior citizens) population from the previous 80 percent to the current 70 percent.

“We should get vaccinated so that even if we have another case surge, we are ready to face it. Anyway, vaccines are free and proven to be safe and effective, what we need to do, and the information campaigns of our LGUs (local government units) must be continuous, as well as strategic communication and providing incentives to encourage those unvaccinated to get vaccinated,” he added.

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He added that municipalities now can also be placed under Alert Level 1 based on the healthcare utilization rate of their province.

Earlier, Año believed that Metro Manila and many other areas will be placed under Alert Level 1 until June after these locations were downshifted to the most relaxed health restriction against the pandemic from April 1 to 15.

The DILG chief reasoned out that this is due to the steady decline in the Covid-19 active cases in the country but at the same time warned the people never to be complacent emphasizing them to still strictly adhere to the minimum public health standards.

Comparing the data from March 21 to 27 to the previous week, Año pointed to the 24 percent decline of Covid-19 active cases, describing these as good numbers that he hopes will place the whole country under Alert Level 1.

In a press briefing in Camp Crame, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Dionardo Carlos backed Año’s remarks, saying they are now focused on securing travelers ahead of the Holy Week break as travel restrictions have been eased.

“Ahead of the traditional Holy Week retreat next week that is the highlight of the three-month summer vacation season, the PNP is directing focus to public safety and enhanced law enforcement operations to ensure safe and secure national observance of the Holy Week. These public safety operations shall also cover enhanced police visibility and preventive patrols in Islamic communities and places of worship to ensure the peaceful and orderly celebration of the Holy Month of Ramadhan that began over the weekend,” Carlos said.

This came as the PNP anticipates an increased volume of passenger traffic in public transportation hubs, seaports, and domestic air terminals across the country.

Carlos said police assistance centers and road safety marshals will be deployed along national highways to assist motorists.

‘Ayuda’ payout suspended

Meanwhile, Año warned that candidates giving cash to their constituents supposedly under the guise of financial aid will face legal action.

“Wala na tayong ayuda ngayon ano. Pinagbawal na natin yung mga pagbibigay ng ayuda except yung program ng DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) na pinayagan ng Comelec (Commission on Elections) (We do not distribute ayuda right now. Ayuda distribution is prohibited except the DSWD programs allowed by Comelec),’’ Año said.

He also cautioned local government unit (LGUs) officials against the use of their resources like government vehicles in bringing supporters to any campaign sorties of the political aspirants.

“We already gave a warning and issued an advisory and memorandum to all LGUs that their resources and equipment cannot be used for campaigning. That is prohibited so we teamed up with the Comelec that they will be in charge for Omnibus Election Code violations while the DILG will deal with the administrative case,’’ he added.

The DILG chief also admitted having received reports of provincial local officials using public resources to print campaign materials like tarpaulins shown through social media.

“Meron namang ginagawang kaukulan (action) ‘yung ating Comelec at ang ating law enforcement (authorities) natin ano. Patuloy nating babantayan yung mga ganyan (incidents) at hinihiling din natin sa ating kababayan na anumang makikita natin o observation na (election) violation, ipagbigay alam kaagad sa pinakamalapit na authorities (Our Comelec and law enforcement authorities are taking appropriate actions. We will continue to be on guard against these incidents and we appeal to our countrymen to immediately report any election violations to the authorities),’’ Año said.

Año noted that each locality has an election campaign committee up to the municipal level for the expeditious transmittal of election-related complaints to authorities. (PNA)

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